Prashan Sithi and Cédric Morvan are the founders of the European branch of iHorse, a company specialized in strategic consulting in the IT and Digital Sector. The key to iHorse’s international success lies in their use of local expertise to develop their business in each country where they are present. Read on to find out more!
Hello Cedric and Prashan! Can you explain what your story is and how you got involved with iHorse?
In fact, in the beginning neither of us were in the IT universe. I ( Cédric ) was doing chemistry in a laboratory of the CNRS ( MONARIS UMR8233 ) in partnership with Louvre Museum (C2RMF) analyzing pieces of glass from churches from the late Roman Empire. It was my first professional experience and at the end of my contract I decided that staring at a laser in a dark room was not for me. Open to trying something new, a friend introduced me to Prashan. That’s when I switched from chemistry to IT. Before iHorse Prashan was studying to be a biomechatronical engineer, but joined the team when his brothers (two of the three founders of iHorse) asked him to open the French market in 2011.
When and where was iHorse originally created? What are the links between the different iHorse companies in different countries?
iHorse was created in 2007 in India, then in 2010 in the USA and Canada. We have 200 people working for the company in India, primarily on our development team. The French entity was officially created in 2016, but we have been present in the country for the last six years. All the iHorse locations around the world are subsidiaries of iHorse India. We are in two big cities in South Eastern India, Puducherry and Chennai, this is where our development and management is located. In our European and North American offices, the focus is on marketing, sales, technical consultancy and design.
How are you financed?
All of iHorse’s development has been auto-financed, each director invested from his own pocket at the beginning then continues to invest their energy to help the company evolve.
How does what iHorse offers differ from competitors in the same field?
iHorse offers strategic consulting in the IT sector. One of the main differences we have with other companies, is that in every country where we have a presence we make sure to hire team members locally who know the market. In the United States, we hire people from the United States, same in Canada, France, the UK etc. Access to this local knowledge sets us apart because it helps us to understand and adapt to the work culture, lifestyle, and how people think in that market. We also think it’s important to send our international teams to India so they can have direct contact with our home base, partners, and clients there.
“One of the main differences we have with other companies, is that in every country where we have a presence we make sure to hire team members locally who know the market.”
iHorse began as just an office in France, what pushed you to decide to become a full French enterprise?
It’s always easier to have registered company in the countries where you work. For legal matters, customer confidence, the tax systems, and for plenty of other things it’s better. New customers are more confident in your company if you can, for instance, show them a SAS here in France, or a Limited in the United Kingdom or the United States.
How have you successfully developed your business in France?
France is a very demanding market and represents a commercial challenge for our high-quality services. Only very few foreign businesses of our size and in our field continue to be successful here after one year, we’ve succeeded by quickly identifying our weaknesses and errors and finding solutions. For example, we recruited specialists with international experience, particularly French expats on our production sites in India. This allowed us to increase our level of expertise and simplify our communication.
Are there any disadvantages to being a French company?
Yes, the taxes and legal requirements are a bit complicated. India functions more like the USA, Canada, and even the UK, when it comes to these matters. Here in France you have a lot of differences in the amount of taxes, rules, government presence, etc. For us here in France and in Europe it’s normal, but for our team in India it is very hard to understand why you have to pay so much just for taxes. For example, to hire an employee here in France the employer has to pay nearly twice of their salary as cost for the company. Another difficulty was working against the negative perception of the quality of Indian work here in France, in Anglo-Saxon countries it’s viewed much more positively.
What challenges do you come across working internationally?
The main fight we have internationally are related to governmental changes. With the new United States president, we don’t know what to expect in the future and saying we are working from India is unpopular. I’ve even heard of a company hiring employees from the United States and sending them to India to avoid outsourcing their IT work. So, it’s a bit complicated. Of course for France, the United States is already cheaper to work in because of the tax system, but it’s still higher than India. The problem is that if they want to start making the iPhone or new MacBook entirely in the United States, it will cost a fortune. That’s not good for anyone. We also have Brexit to think about in Europe, which raises a lot of questions. The British and business directors there are very open to the markets so we don’t foresee much changing for us there, but we will see what happens. Brexit is going to be much more of a problem for countries with small markets, like Poland and Slovenia, than France because the United Kingdom cannot stop have relations with France. Here in France we also just got a new president and are waiting for our legislative elections to decide the new government. If the president’s plan is followed through, taxes for companies will decrease from 33% to 25%, which would be great for us. We just need to wait and see.
Outside of governmental changes, are there any cultural challenges working internationally?
For me, there are not that many cultural differences working with western countries. We are also trying to work with Africa because we know the market is heading there in the future. Africa is challenging market because it’s such a large diverse continent with many different languages. The different wars and political instability in certain parts also adds difficulties, however, for me its growing fast there and there are many long-term opportunities. For example, did you know that everyone there has smart phones, but no landlines or computers? It may not be the latest iPhone or Samsung, but they still have a smart phone and need mobile applications, payment gateways, and web platforms. We can offer this by working with them, not over them, to develop solutions. Our team will support their team, this only way it will work.
iHorse recently started working in London after a trip with Beeleev.
Yes, we did go on a trip with Beeleev where we made one serious lead to start growing our business there and of course many others. Now we are planning an incubator in southern London with five or six companies and are continuing get more space so we can welcome more companies. We are also trying to contact new communication agencies to see how to replicate our way of working in France. It’s a very competitive market because there are already so many Indian companies in London.
What direction is your company heading in next?
We are convinced that the future of iHorse is directly linked to start-ups. For the last two years, we have assisted them in becoming “scale-ups” by offering services at every level: judicial, strategic, financial, technological, commercial, etc. We offer this assistance in the form of iAcceleration, a program that helps start-ups reach their goals through a 360-degree approach.
“We are convinced that the future of iHorse is directly linked to start-ups. For the last two years, we have assisted them in becoming “scale-ups” by offering services at every level: judicial, strategic, financial, technological, commercial, etc.”
Today, how do you build your network?
Between having a presence in France for the last five years and continually working to meet people and please our clients, we have grown through word of mouth. We have also utilized webmining, social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and networking platforms such as Beeleev.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs that want to start expanding internationally?
For us, the first thing that’s very important is to know the country where you want to expand. The best advice we can give is to hire someone from this country and base your work on their local expertise. Otherwise you won’t know how to act in front of clients and partners or what the real possibilities are there. That’s our main advice.
OK, so local contact and having local knowledge. Lastly, what do you wish you had known before you started?
The amount of time it takes to make your business work. It’s a long journey to be successful and it’s important to know that before beginning. iHorse is still young in France, so it’s difficult to find time for ourselves. We hope, in the next few years as things are set in place that we will be able to find more personal time for ourselves and our families.
Any final advice for entrepreneurs getting started?
Don’t be afraid of failure, it helps build the business.
Train your employees well and know how to delegate responsibilities.
Have a good system of reporting and follow-up with your teams.
Thank you very much, Prashan and Cédric.